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audio books and coloring books

I have a new obsession: coloring books paired with audio books.

I place most of the blame on Andi (Estella’s Revenge) and Heather (Capricious Reader), who have been sharing beautiful photos of their coloring book adventures on Instagram (Andi is here, Heather is here). I’m definitely not as talented as they are, but seeing their beautiful work is inspiring.

When I was in the Twin Cities a couple of weekends ago, I went to Barnes and Noble and bought a couple of coloring books I’ve seen quite a few images from – Secret Garden by Johanna Basford and Splendid Cities by Rosie Goodwin and Alice Chadwick. I wasn’t really sure when or how I’d use them, but I do find that creative crafts – crocheting and cross stitch, mainly – are good ways for me to turn my brain off at the end of the day when I don’t feel like reading.

I stumbled across the nearly perfect marriage of audio books and coloring books when I got home that Sunday. The boyfriend and I had been listening to Armada by Ernest Cline in the car and I wanted to keep going, but the weather wasn’t conducive to walking and I was too worn out to think about chores, my two main audio book activities. After listening to the book while eating dinner, I grabbed Splendid Cities and my new box of Crayola colored pencils and decided to give it a try.

castles

Perfection. I need some activity while I listen to an audio book, otherwise my mind wanders. But that activity needs to be nearly thoughtless – and absolutely cannot involve words – for me to follow the audio book. Coloring is just the right mix of movement and mindlessness I need to listen to an audio book at home. I think I ended up reading and coloring for a couple of hours that first night, not quite realizing where the evening had gone. It helped me relax without making me feel like a slug (hello, bingeing on Netflix), and led me right into reading a book before bed.

secret gardenI’m hoping that this little hobby will continue. If it does, I think I’ll eventually get another coloring book with some less detailed designs. As much as I like both Secret Garden and Splendid Cities, they make me feel a little cross-eyed after staring at them for too long. And while basic Crayolas are nice, I can see investing in some more high-quality colored pencils… if the hobby sticks.

For now, I’m in the middle of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (a fantasy/dystopia – my audio catnip) while trying to finish up my first full spread in Secret Garden. It’s looking pretty awesome so far.

Have you hopped on the coloring bandwagon? Any recommendations for great coloring books or coloring supplies? Where do you get your coloring inspiration?

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Books In My Shopping Bag: July 2015

Not reading all month has definitely not stopped me from buying books… you’re welcome, publishing industry. Here’s a little recap:

book purchases

I did a less than stellar job keeping my impulsive book buying to a minimum this month. But July is my birthday month, so I guess I get a pass? Eh, whatever, these all look awesome.

  • Factory Man by Beth Macy – The true story of a furniture maker who works to keep his business in America despite the economic pressures to do otherwise. Reviews have praised the reporting on this one, so I’m definitely in.
  • Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – I preordered this one after finishing To Kill a Mockingbird and, to be honest, all of the buzz after the release has soured me on reading it. I’ll probably shelve it for awhile to come back with fresh eyes.
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – This is the other big, buzzy book I got this month. I am hoping to jump into it soon.
  • The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – This book has been on my “books to watch for” list for a long time. It was on the “Summer Reads” table at Barnes and Noble, so I grabbed it!
  • The Weather Experiment by Peter Moore – This book, about the first pioneers who first tried to understand the weather, was a total impulse buy. I can’t even remember where I heard about it!
  • The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez – Another impulse buy, this time from Target where I was walking around and wasting time.
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King – Sheila (Book Journey) highly recommended this one, so I bought it. I’m only like 25 pages into this chunkster (880 pages!), but so far it’s fun.

library book sale

Each July my local library holds its annual book sale. While this year’s sale was a little smaller than usual, and I was rushing through on my lunch break because I had to get back to work, but I still managed to snag quite a few interesting looking books.

  • The Other Side of the River by Alex Kotlowitz – I’ve been meaning to read Alex Kotlowitz forever. This book is about two towns in southern Michigan, one white and one black, and what these racial divisions mean to each community.
  • Henry VIII: The King and His Court by Alison Weir – Ever since I finished watching The Tudors, I’ve been on the lookout for books on the time of Henry VII. Although Wolf Hall is high on my list, I love finding some nonfiction too.
  • Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Katy Butler – I read this one awhile ago and gushed about it, but didn’t have my own copy. This was an excellent grab.
  • When Invisible Children Sing by Huang Tang – A random grab that seemed up my alley, a doctor writing about his work with homeless children in La Paz, Bolivia.
  • Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work) by Michael Goodwin and Dan E. Burr – I’m totally in for an illustrated book about the economy.
  • The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama – Normally I’m not into political memoirs because I don’t care about politicians… but I actually like Obama and I’m curious about this one.

Yes, yes, I know I have a book buying problem. There’s got to be a word for this, right?

I’m in the middle of the Steven King book, but not sure which of these I should grab next. Maybe Ta-Nehisi Coates? The Alison Weir is calling me too. Or Elizabeth Gilbert. That one just sounds awesome. So many books, so little time!

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Eight Things I Did on My Blogging Break

currently july 26 2015.jpg

Happy Sunday! When I started my blogging break 17 days ago, I had grand plans to read and relax and try to get my mojo back… this is what I did instead:

1. Watched 25 episodes of White Collar on Netflix. I don’t know where I found this much time to watch tv. I also watched many episodes of Suits. While both shows are enjoyable, this wasn’t the most rejuvenating activity.

2. Listened to Armada by Ernst Cline while coloring. Listening to audio books while coloring — I bought Splendid Cities by Rosie Goodwin and Alice Chadwick and Secret Garden by Johanna Basford — was the most satisfying discovery of my blogging break. I will definitely be doing this more.

3. Served as sous chef during a ribs cooking contest and took photos at a parade during the hottest weekend of the year. Our annual city festival was a lot of fun, but man, so dang hot. I followed up that working weekend with a day of where, as I recall, I watched a lot of Netflix.

4. Ate cookies shaped like my sister’s face. My mom and I hosted a party celebrating my sister getting licensed as an architect in Minnesota. The face cookies were a party highlight.

5. Bought seven (maybe eight? maybe more?) books, and went to our library book sale where I bought six more. I’m planning to show all of them off in more detail in a post later this week, so stay tuned.

6. Hosted a retirement party, complete with margaritas. Losing one of my coworkers to retirement was probably the saddest thing over my entire break. Learning to function without her has been the most challenging thing.

7. Visited Brainerd where I ate breakfast at Perkins with Sheila (Book Journey) and pretended to be abducted by aliens. I was in Brainerd for a work-related training, so I found some time to see Sheila and got to act like a weirdo in a goofy training exercise. It’s hard to explain…

8. Read one book. Yep, that’s right. In 17 days away from blogging I managed to finish just one book, an egalley of Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (Sept. 15 from Riverhead). And I really only managed to read that in fits and spurts, 10 to 15 pages at a time. Thank goodness it’s really good!

Realizing I’d let reading fall so far down my priority list is one of the reasons I’m jumping back into blogging. Without the accountability of the blog, I end up filling my spare time with activities that simply pass the time rather than activities that rejuvenate me. I absolutely needed the break — the last few weeks have been full and stressful and emotionally charged — but I also missed this space, and all of you, quite a bit. So, with that, I’m getting back to work.

The two books I’m making my way through today are Ghettoside by Jill Leovy (literary journalism about murder and justice in Los Angeles County) and 11/22/63 by Steven King (time travel and the John F. Kennedy assassination, I think — Sheila recommended it, calling the book “King but not cray-cray”).

What’s the best book you’ve read in the last couple of weeks? Anything I need to get my hands on right away?

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currently july 8 2015.jpg

Time and Place | About 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 8, my 29th birthday!

Eating and Drinking | We’re getting Dairy Queen for a birthday treat at work today. Confetti Cake Blizzard, get in my belly.

Reading | Since I last managed to blog I’ve finished three books: The Lost Landscape by Joyce Carol Oates (collected essays on her childhood in rural New York), Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (nonfiction about overturning death row cases in the South), and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (you know what this one is about). Today, if I have time to read, I’ll be settling back in with Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr.

Watching | I’m midway through season 10 of Friends, but because I’m sad about finishing the series I’m taking a break to catch up on some other comedies like The Mindy Project.

Hating | Work has been stressful for me this week. We’re going through a some staff transitions, we have our big city festival this weekend, and I’ve got some extra projects on my plate at the moment. I’m feeling a little frazzled.

Loving | Thanks, 50 Cent, for the best birthday song. I was reminded about it thanks to my favorite new Spotify playlist, Throwback Dance Party.

Recalling | We had an awesome time hanging out with some out of town friends in the Twin Cities last week. We bummed around the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, went mini-golfing, tried geocaching and had an amazing dinner. I had one of the best cocktails ever, a Rhubarb Streisand (leatherbee gin, rhubarb, lemon and bubbles).

Anticipating | To celebrate my birthday, we’re having friends over tonight to grill burgers and hang out. I have a six pack of Strongbow and a bottle of wine in my refrigerator just waiting for 5 p.m.

Signing Off | And with that, my birthday present to myself is a little blogging break. I’m not planning any posts for the next week or two in the hopes that I can get through this work craziness and come back feeling refreshed. Plus, the weather is beautiful and I want to be outside reading. Thanks for sticking with me, and see you on the flip side!

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On Reading Out and Living Abundantly

One of the books that’s stuck with me since I read it in in 2011 is Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. It’s one of those pseudo self-help books, focusing on one woman’s journey to feel happier. Ideas she posited in the book seem to come back to me at random times – recently while doing a Whole 30 – and often seem to offer some insight into my own behavior.

Early in the book, Rubin shares her 12 Commandments, the principles that helped guide her through her happiness project and her life. The one I’m thinking about this week, specifically in relation to my reading life, is her commandment to “Spend Out” – to stop hoarding, trust in abundance, and put things out into the world instead of saving them for a rainy day or a special occasion.

Going through my bookshelves as part of a massive book purge reminded me of how many wonderful books I’ve invested in… and made me realize I’ve somehow become unwilling to pick up the books I’m most excited about reading because I spend too much time thinking, instead, about when the perfect time to read the book will be.

I think a lot about books that would be great at the lake or at the gym, books that would be excellent during the Readathon or while on a long plane ride. I save books that I know will be great for times when I think will need to read a great book… ignoring the fact that there will always be more great books to read.

This doesn’t mean I end up reading bad books or disappointing books. So far, 2015 has been one of my most satisfying reading years since I started blogging. But it does mean that I’ve been letting my reading fall towards the books of the moment and letting other books I know will wonderful languish unread.

This has been the fate of so many books. Culling my bookshelves reminded me that I’ve been holding on to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Embassytown by China Miéville, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett and so many others, just waiting for a “perfect moment.” And when those inevitable moments I’ve been saving a book for do arrive, I often choose something else, still afraid of spending out this abundance I’ve invested in.

I’m still trying to think about what goals or plans I want to put in motion for my birthday next month. Turning 29 seems like one of those big ones, like the last peak of a climb on the way to turning 30. But I do know I want to make the year one of spending out, of living abundantly and making sure to love and use and appreciate and enjoy all of the objects around me. For purposes of this blog, I want to “Read Out,” to finish books I know I’ll love to make more space for the great books I know are still to come.

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